Is Narcissism the Second-Hand Smoke of Mental Health?

Hey Optimist Minds!

Narcissism seems to be a buzzword in psychology as there is a lot of online content about this subject. Countless people resonate with the information being shared as it truly is a highly prevalent behaviour pattern in today’s world.

Survivors of narcissistic abuse can find support in several online communities that validate their experience and offer helpful resources. One overarching message seen in all these platforms is that narcissism affects bystanders a lot more severely than the narcissist.

Expert on narcissistic personality disorder and author of multiple books on narcissism, Dr Ramani Durvasula calls narcissism the second-hand smoke of psychiatry.

In this video, we’ll explain why she’s right to call it so. We aim to spread awareness and help individuals experiencing narcissistic abuse. However, this video is not meant to judge or shame narcissists.

Having said that, let’s begin.

A 2011 study found that the prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the general US population was 6.2%. However, this figure could only account for the number of people who felt that narcissism negatively affected them. 

Unfortunately, most narcissists don’t have that insight, so they can’t be diagnosed just because others find them obnoxious. As a result, plenty of people in the world with narcissistic tendencies are doing nothing to improve their mental health.

Instead, it’s the people around such individuals who end up bearing the brunt of it. 

So let’s take a deeper look at narcissists in various contexts to see their impact on other people’s mental health.

Narcissists in romantic relationships

Dating or being married to a narcissist is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. It’s a game of manipulation straight from day one. 

It starts on a rosy note with plenty of warmth and affection. Experts refer to this honeymoon phase as love-bombing as the narcissist overwhelms their target with compliments and big gestures.

The minute you express your commitment to them, the love-bombing ends. From that point, they start devaluing you to make you feel inadequate and incompetent. Simultaneously, they deceive you into isolation by influencing all other significant relationships in your life.

Before you realise what happened, you’re stuck in an abusive relationship, you don’t feel safe talking to anyone about it, and they have you feeling like you’re worthless.

The narcissist’s family

A narcissistic sibling or relative may not have such a severe impact on you because of some emotional distance. Nevertheless, since they’re invited to all your special occasions, they can cause some damage.

Generally, narcissists cannot stand not being the centre of attention. They might try to grab the limelight, minimise your reason to celebrate, or even sabotage your interactions with others.

While this kind of abuse can be pretty bad, it’s not as traumatising as having a narcissistic parent or child. As dependents and caregivers, it’s not that simple to distance yourself or end the relationship.

The narcissist will expect you to prioritise their happiness over your life and safety, all the while guilt-tripping you and making you question your worth.

Such chronic exposure to their selfish toxicity can take a toll on one’s psychological and physical wellbeing. It’s typical to develop anxiety disorders, depression, and even PTSD.

Narcissists in the workplace

If the narcissist is not in a position of authority, they will keep complaining about how disadvantaged they are. 

Their victim mindset has them believing that they are being wronged by not getting power and admiration. They might even cause trouble at work because they feel entitled.

That kind of negativity can be exhausting to be around. But it’s not as challenging as having a narcissistic boss or mentor. 

Narcissists tend to be arrogant, antagonistic, and short-tempered bosses who put unrealistic expectations on their subordinates. Then, when you inevitably fail, they make it a reason to humiliate you further.

Working in an environment like this batters your self-esteem and can cause burnout. Consequently, the narcissist not only declines your mental health but also detours your career.

Narcissists as leaders

When narcissists become national or world leaders, they get access to unlimited power. They are more prone to being corrupt than the average person as they are pretty selfish.

Also, narcissists make undemocratic leaders because they are never receptive to any negative feedback. Instead, they simply deny all allegations and collectively gaslight the public.

Having narcissistic leaders can damage the mental health of entire populations as well as future generations.

When a person smokes in front of others, they put everyone at risk. Similarly, when narcissists don’t take accountability for their mental health, everyone else around them suffers too.

Do you agree that narcissism is the second-hand smoke of mental health? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments. 

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.